GLENDALE, Ariz. – Everyone who pays attention to the NFL knows the Arizona Cardinals are loaded at wide receiver.
There’s Larry Fitzgerald, of course, Michael Floyd and speedy John Brown. Last year the Cardinals added J.J. Nelson, who may be the speediest of all.
But there’s another Brown on the roster, Jaron, and he’s been the most impressive receiver in training camp.
Jaron Brown got to the NFL the hard way. He signed with Arizona as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Clemson in April 2013 and has played in all of the Cardinals’ 51 games since then. He has 44 catches in those three seasons for 513 yards and four touchdowns.
“Those are the guys you fall in love with,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He made it on special teams, then he made it as a receiver and he continues to improve in both areas. His value goes up and up and up.”
With Fitzgerald, John Brown and Nelson all sidelined with injuries at one time or another, Jaron has had a lot of time with the first unit.
“That’s the main thing. He’s gotten opportunity,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “For whatever reason, over the years, he just hasn’t been on the field because there’s guys in front of him and he’s been the young guy, the undrafted guy. With Smokey (John Brown) being down for a number of days of practice and then J.J. being down and Larry being down, he’s just gotten the opportunity and seized it.”
Brown said he’s certain Palmer has grown more confident in him.
“That comes in practice and repetition,” he said, “constantly doing those routes and getting the timing down.”
Making it in the league the way he did makes him appreciate it, maybe more than a drafted player would.
“Can’t take anything for granted,” Brown said. “I came in the undrafted route. Really special teams were part of my entry into the league and still are.”
He plays on all of them – punts, punt returns, kickoffs and kickoff returns.
“He’s got length and speed and he’s tough,” Arians said. “He’s got a defensive player’s mentality. For a receiver to be a core special teamer, it’s a very unique skill set.”
Brown said he’s worked on the technical aspects of being a receiver this training camp. He doesn’t think about where he fits on the depth chart or how much more playing time he might get on another team.
“I just look at it like I’ve got to be ready because I know my number is going to get called upon,” he said, “and whenever that does happen, I just want to make sure I’m able to go in there and there’s no letup.”
Brown knows the plays for all the receiver positions.
“I think it’s important just because you never know when a guy might go down,” he said. “Just to be able to go in there and step up and fill that spot makes you more valuable.”
This camp, he’s had to do that in place of one receiver or another in just about every practice.
“I’m just taking advantage of my opportunity,” Brown said, “and making the most of it.”
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